A study presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2014) examines the increased health care costs associated with musculoskeletal conditions as compared to other diseases. The study revealed that health care costs were almost 50% higher for people with a musculoskeletal condition compared to any other singly occurring condition, according to a EULAR news release. The Dutch cross-sectional study of 8,904 people assessed how the number of diseases a person has impacts their total health care cost and which combinations of diseases have the greater impact on cost.

The EULAR news release notes that the study collated individuals with self-reported physician-diagnosed diseases, including musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes, along with other healthcare usage. The total health care costs were calculated for a 3-month period using reference prices from the Dutch manual for pharmaco-economic health care evaluations 2010, adjusting for inflation as required and using healthy individuals as the reference point, as indicated on an additional news report from Science Daily.

The Science Daily news report notes that multimorbidity was present in almost 20% of cases, with 20% having reported to have a musculoskeletal condition. The health care costs increased steeply as the number of diseases in the individual increased. However, the presence of musculoskeletal conditions had a larger impact on the total cost than any other condition. If two diseases were present in a person that were not musculoskeletal conditions, the costs were two times higher than a healthy person.

The results of the study also show that if one of the two diseases was a musculoskeletal condition, the costs were three times higher than for a healthy person. Overall, musculoskeletal conditions had a larger impact on health care costs than any other diseases, whether occurring alone or as co-morbidity.

Anjte Van Der Zee-Neuen, PhD, states, “It is clear that the cost of delivering care to those patients with musculoskeletal conditions is considerably higher than those with other diseases. In these economically challenging times, this research highlights a clear area of focus for policy makers where prioritization of musculoskeletal disorders could result in longer term cost efficiencies.”

[Sources: European League Against Rheumatism, Science Daily]